Over the past two weeks, I’ve competed in the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon.
I’ve hit the pavement and hawked my book at every tiny retailer you can imagine.
I’ve started work on turning an old horse barn door into a headboard.
A house remodel. A rental house clean-up. A kid playing three sports in need of carpools and uniform cleanings.
It’s been insanely busy around these parts.
But I’ve determined that probably the coolest, most fulfilling thing I will ever do with my life is coach my daughter’s softball team.
The joy of these kids is just infectious.
I’d like to say I’m coming at this as a former baseball player myself or even that I want to relive my own missed shots at glory through these little munchkins. That at least would give me a qualification, some experience to call upon, even if you had to put “Douche” above my jersey number. But the fact is, I sucked at baseball as a kid and pretty much stopped playing organized leagues at a very young age after my coach beaned me with a fastball.
When I think of that coach, I basically try to do the opposite now that I’m coaching myself.
Yes, we work on skills — hitting and fielding and throwing. But some of the players are still in kindergarten and just getting them to find first base, let alone throw to it during live action, can be a challenge. So I also work on a lot of teamwork drills. I absolutely could not stand the sniping and name calling I heard on Emme’s soccer team last year, and I wanted these girls to know that working together and playing like a team is probably the most important part about softball.
We had our first game this weekend. For warmups, the girls had to run to a certain line and then run back to the first base line. But the thing is: They had to step across the finish at the exact same time. The whole team. They tried a few times and just couldn’t do it. I made them huddle up and figure out as a team how to do it — these kindergartners and first graders and second graders all standing there talking and listening and figuring it out. They tried again and didn’t quite get it. I told them to get some water and get ready for the game, that we’d practice some more after the game and then I had to go talk to the other team’s coach for a moment.
And get this: Out of the corner of my eye, I see a blur of action as the team began to run. Then they all slowed down together, formed a row and stepped over the first base line at the exact same time. All of them. On their own.
We scored a few runs that game and managed to get a few outs. The girls had a good time. But the absolute best part, for me at least, came before play even started.
I wish I could put a finer point on this, something more literary or life lessony. “They say winning’s not the only thing and these kids proved it.” Or some such Hallmarky nonsense.
But the truth is: Now I’m a little frightened. I’m researching more fielding drills and doing what I can to help them learn how to hit. I’m eager for the next practice but now also a little nervous. Because I’m hoping, deep down, I can keep my own end of the bargain and live up to the kind of teamwork these girls displayed.